The Things He Saw
On April 27, 1945, the 12th Armored Division of the United States Army liberated prisoners from a Dachau subcamp called Kaufering IV in Landsberg, Germany. Serving with the armored unit was a 22-year-old soldier from Ohio named Robert A. Miller.
In April 1982, 37 years later, Miller was serving as a pastor in Florida when he was invited to participate at a local Holocaust remembrance ceremony. There he shared what he saw during the war. His firsthand testimony has been corroborated many times over by American soldiers and scores of photographs.
What the Jewish people suffered at the hands of the Nazis is unspeakable. Few people today seem to realize that the cruelest, most savage Nazis were highly educated members of a society considered among the most cultured in the world at the time—an affirmation of the biblical truth that neither education nor sophistication can change the naturally depraved condition of the human heart (cf. Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9). That transforming work can be done only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Here is what Pastor Miller said at the ceremony:
As we approached the town of Landsberg, our convoy came upon a concentration/slave labor and sick camp. [Landsberg was where Adolf Hitler wrote his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle).] Detouring slightly, we drove up to the front gate. Two U.S. soldiers stood guard. They firmly informed us that the camp was off limits [due to Typhus]. My commander was not to be put off so easily. He heard of the Nazi death camps and wanted a firsthand look. He ordered me to drive around back. As we circled the camp, we came upon a large hole in the fence.
Parking the jeep, we crawled through the hole. Regaining our footing, we looked around and were stunned. We had been through months of combat. Death, dying soldiers, and destruction all around us had been common sights. We were combat-hardened, but we were horrified at what we saw.We walked between row upon row of bodies stacked like cordwood, only not neatly piled like cordwood. Bodies so emaciated they looked like skeletons with skin stretched over bones…Some [American soldiers] were taking pictures and weeping at the horror of it all.
We walked between row upon row of bodies stacked like cordwood, only not neatly piled like cordwood. Bodies so emaciated they looked like skeletons with skin stretched over bones. Being so close to the Alps, the weather was still cold, but many of those skeletal bodies had on a flimsy, striped pajama-type top or bottom. None that I saw had both top and bottom.
These starved and tortured people were housed in A-frame shacks with wide openings on either end with no doors. The freezing wind could whip through with no problem. The “bunk” was one large shelf on either side, approximately three feet off the floor, similar to the type formerly used by slave ships. No mattresses, pillows, or covers could be seen.
Several other GIs [American soldiers] found a way into the camp. Some were taking pictures and weeping at the horror of it all. We were informed that many others, though rescued and still alive, were doomed to die. So starved, there was no way to save them. As we walked back to the jeep, our minds were numbed by this horrendous scene and of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.
Where was the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob during these oppressive years? Standing in Jerusalem 36 years later, the answer was made plain. The approach to the museum of the Holocaust [Yad Vashem] is lined on either side by numerous carob trees planted in honor of “Righteous Gentiles.” Each tree was identified with a nameplate stuck in the ground beneath the tree.
We walked to one of the trees, and I read the little sign. It said, “Corrie ten Boom—A Righteous Gentile.” [Corrie was a Dutch-Christian survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. She and her family hid Jewish people during the German occupation of Holland.]
Corrie and many other Gentiles like her had risked their lives daily to show God’s love to a weary and beleaguered people—a great and courageous people who, in 1948, had finally come home.
Pastor Miller was a faithful preacher of the gospel who loved the Jewish people deeply and believed the Holocaust was perpetrated by people who neither believed in nor feared the true God of Scripture. Pastor Miller was my teacher, mentor, and friend. He entered the Lord’s presence in 2010, but his legacy of love and truth lives on.